In 2005, a Dutch newspaper published 12 cartoons describing various aspects of Islam. This ignited a series of violent protests in the Muslim world; 139 people died and many more were injured.
These violent reactions to the cartoons gave rise to serious debate in the Western world about how the media should respond. Some argued that reprinting the cartoons in articles on the topic would be culturally offensive. Others countered that not reprinting the cartoons was a concession to terrorism, allowing violent men to suppress free speech. This controversy is ongoing.
Yale University Press just published a book called The Cartoons that Shook the World by Professor Jytte Klausen of Brandeis University. This book analyzes the worldwide reaction to the Danish cartoons. But in a last-minute prepublication decision, Yale officials removed the 12 cartoons from the book, as well as other pictures of Muhammad, including those by respected artists, because radical Muslims oppose showing images of Muhammad.
Yale’s academic faculty took no notice of this censorship. A few other groups did object to the surprising decision to censor the cartoons. The American Association of University Professors, for example, accused Yale of caving in to the “demands” of terrorists. A group of alumni organized themselves into the Yale Committee for a Free Press and called on Yale to reprint the book, including the cartoons. In a public letter, these alumni condemned Yale’s “surrender to potential unknown belligerents.” They asked, “What could be a clearer sign of our professors’ loss of understanding of the requirements of liberal education than their failure to defend liberty of thought and discussion where it touches them most directly?”
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